Brighton and Hove City is located in the South East of England approximately 70 miles from London. Debates on lack of affordable housing in Brighton and Hove have been alive since the 1970s with housing groups and associations demanding better homes, affordable rents and more social housing. In 1979 home prices in Brighton were higher than any where in mainland Britain except in London and Scotland and this continues to be the case - Brighton is the fourth least affordable city in the country after Oxford, London and Cambrigde. According to the Brighton and Hove City Council’s 2020 Housing Market Report, the Median household income in the city is £29,100 per annum, placing extraordinary pressure on residents’ ability to house themselves. An average one-bedroom flat costs over nine times the median household annual income while a three-bedroom house costs 16½ times the median household annual income. Purchasing a property is out of reach for most residents. The private rental sector is also out of reach of many. Rents in Brighton and Hove are also higher compared to rents in England in the rest of the South East of England. Only 129 affordable homes were created in 2018-2019 and the demand for affordable homes far outdo supply. Given that many areas of the city are conservation zones, planning controls are tighter and land for new housing is scarce. Available land is taken up by developers to sell on the already exhaustive seller’s market.
Within this context, this research examines the resistances and activism that have raised awareness of housing conditions in the city since the 1970s and models of sustainable community-led cooperative housing. Looking into the city’s archive and community archives, as well as visiting and interviewing three housing cooperatives in Brighton Two Piers Housing Association’s Christchurch House, Bunker Housing’s first property at Plumpton Road and Seasalt Housing (a new student housing co-op), this project studies the development of the first tenement housing in the city, as well as processes and methods of self-build, self-managed and self-organised. It explores how collective design and management of housing has functioned in practice. It highlights that a wider stock of affordable housing is needed, but that this can only be achieved through influencing policy and a radical revisiting of ways of building and managing existing stock of houses.
In engaging with the cases as well as the conceptual frameworks through the Archive and Keywords sections, the research on Brighton and Hove will be useful for reorienting policy-making and architectural and design practice and pedagogy towards making it relevant for the multiple cultural contexts of the city as well as other places in the Global South and the North.